NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine’s 100% FOOTY on Monday night, debating rugby league’s hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in from 10pm AEST, as the panel previews all the action ahead of Origin I.
You know there’s a big game coming when you start hearing the Maroons bleating about a sickness in camp or injuries keeping big players out of sessions. It’s no surprise that we’re hearing talk of more problems in the Maroons camp. These smokescreens are nothing new. Nothing new from the Queenslanders. They love that underdog tag and for some reason the NSW media and everyone else keeps buying into it every year and they always start their series as underdogs. That’s what they want. That’s what they do.
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I think it helps them when they think the whole world is against them. They buy into that mental game without a doubt. But the Blues have got a lot more to play for this year. They should be playing for Bob Fulton, they should be recognising him, which I know they will. Freddy will have them ready. Last year, they missed a great opportunity to go three series up in a row. They know that and they’ll have revenge on their mind. They’ll have Bob Fulton on their mind. They have a lot to play for this year the Blues, and I think they will get the job done.
I think experience counts for a fair bit in Origin. Whatever we thought of the Queensland team last year, there’s a lot of guys now in there who have now played Origin footy and can be called upon so that’s going to be a huge plus for them this year. Throw on top of that the two games up in Queensland, it’s a fairly big advantage they’ve got to start the series, publicly, and in the bookmakers’ eyes.
But internally and the way Freddy will talk to them and pump them up for the game, NSW will see it a challenge and I don’t think it will faze them, particularly the first one. I think the opener, while it’s a good thing for rugby league and a good think for the people of North Queensland and Townsville, it’s not the traditional home of Origin. It doesn’t have that aura about it that Suncorp does. So, I don’t think they’ll be too fazed about it. They’re a quality side, the Blues, and they’ll be able to overcome it.
I’ve got to be really honest, I think last year’s series is totally different to what we’re going to get this year. Last year, it was at the end of the COVID season, I think the travel got to them. If you look at the three games, Game One was pretty flat, Game Two Queensland were really flat and Game Three NSW just couldn’t get home at the back end. That was to do with travel. That was a fair factor to do with it.
This year will be an Origin of a whole new level. The energy will be up, as will the hype and enthusiasm from all the players. Freddy will have them raring to go. He won’t have them prepared for an ambush, he’ll have them prepared for everything.
I think the league will also stick with what they’ve been doing with the crackdown at NRL when it comes to Origin. But look, it’s hard to be too critical of what they’re doing when you’ve never been able to hit someone over the head anyway. If you hit someone over the head, it’s a penalty. Depending on the forcefulness of it, you’re seeing guys either sent to the sin bin or sometimes sent off. At Origin, If they’re forceful they’ll be sent to the bin, and if we see anything intentional then we’ll see guys sent off.
I do believe there’s been a bit more common sense around it lately to be honest, a hell of a lot more. I think what we saw in Magic Round and the week after is probably gone, and now we can get used to the game. But the same rules are in place for Origin, I don’t think they’ll just change it and scrap it. We’re dealing with the 34 best players in the game, let’s hope no one hits anyone in the head and we see an even contest for 80 minutes.
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I see there’s talk around Big Tino and Payne Haas going for a rematch after last year’s stoush but those days are gone. These guys are professional athletes, they know what they have to do to get the job done. Their whole states are relying on them and more important their teammates are relying on them. They just can’t go out there and do anything stupid and have a rush of blood and get involved in anything silly.
I’m sure there are a lot of us that would love to see something happen. But it just won’t. They’re both smart enough, they both know how much they’ll let their teammates down if they let their emotions get in the way of the game. At the end of the day the best way to hurt your enemy is by beating them on the scoreboard. That’s going to taste sweeter for longer than punching him in the head.
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